Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s office announced on Monday that it has granted amnesty to the first of thousands of FARC guerrillas taking part in a peace process in the south American country.
In a statement released on its website, the prosecutor general’s office said that it had received 98 applications since the government passed an amnesty law in December.
Since then, 6,900 FARC guerrillas have demobilized and can appeal for amnesty unless they are suspected of “grave” war crimes or crimes against humanity.
“After verifying the different information systems, the Prosecutor General processed the first four applications,” the statement said.
The press release also stated that the prosecutor general was also reviewing 72 applications for conditional release submitted by demobilized FARC guerrillas, who applied for release under a 2005 amnesty laws that put in place to demobilize the FARC’s biggest enemy, paramilitary umbrella group AUC.
On December 30, 2016, the Colombian government passed law 1820, which allowed jailed combatants of any party involved in the country’s 52 year-long armed conflict to apply for amnesty depending on the severity of their crimes.
Eligible applicants must sign an agreement and submit themselves to the country’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the transitional justice mechanism that will judge guerrilla and army members accused or suspected of war crimes since the conflict began in 1964.
There are an estimated 4,500 FARC members currently imprisoned in the country, many on pardonable offenses. Some 24,400 state agents are either in prison or court for war-related crimes and more than 12,000 civilians may also be called to trial for financing determined terrorist groups.
Colombia signed a peace deal with the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, in November, ending a war that has killed more than 265,000 and displaced millions.
FARC rebels began demobilizing in December, and have since then gathered in 26 transitional zones across the country. Their disarmament begins on Wednesday.